Washed Up, by Sarah Juggins, January 24, 2017

cleared from horsham graphics

cleared from horsham graphics

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We are a country that is deeply divided, but I would argue that it is a division that more resembles crazy paving than the Grand Canyon; by that, I mean there are many divisions running across the land rather than one deep, single issue.

The most obvious divide of our time is one of wealth. Theresa May has identified a group of people she refers to as the ‘just about managing’, expect ‘JAMs’ to appear in the next issue of the Oxford English Dictionary along with that other non-word ‘Brexit’.

I’m not sure Mrs May and her Westminster-ensconced colleagues recognise just how many people there are in this country that fall into the JAM category, but I would suggest it runs into the millions.

It is the people who have to choose between rent and heating; new school uniforms and food; whether they can afford a week’s break this year; and create a whole new stress level by taking out a prohibitively expensive loan just to get by.

But there are other divisions that are now emerging just as strongly.

We are a country that for, the next few decades, will find its politics defined by the referendum.

We are no longer Conservative versus Labour, now we are remainers versus leavers.

The strength of feeling over this vote will cause reverberations for years and has reset political lines.

Here in Norfolk, there is the divide between metropolitan and provincial.

The distance between our county and the capital city is more than just a matter of miles, it is also a question of perceptions, attitudes and economics.

My question is how someone living in the Westminster bubble can even begin to create policy that is effective for rural communities?

One over-crowded train every hour from King’s Lynn to King’s Cross and three snarled up, one-lane trunk roads out of the county are doing little to attract business to the area.

Then there is the divide between the age groups. Britain’s over 65s are the baby boomer generation, born just after the Second World War.

They were promised a comfortable retirement if they worked hard: the problem is that they now have a higher life expectancy and greater levels of wealth than anyone foresaw back in the 1950s and ‘60s.

The pressure on both pension schemes and social care is immense. For the younger generation, just entering the workplace and attempting to crack the housing market has never been tougher.

With the pensioner generation now among the wealthiest in the country and holding much voting power within its ranks, there is little surprise that there are intergenerational tensions.

All of which points to a pretty divided country. Here in West Norfolk, we feel this divide as keenly as anywhere else. It is difficult to see how the cracks can be covered over, let alone filled in.